Member’s spotlight: vitamin D for the endurance athlete

Posted on: August 31, 2016   by  Vitamin D Council

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For about 30 years of running, I chronically suffered from overuse injuries. They happened so often that I could never get more than 12 miles on any one run before an injury would occur. I had to give up the thought of running marathons. Looking back, I remember that I’d have overuse injuries from even shorter runs during the winter months. I continued to run as best I could.

I began supplementing with large doses of vitamin D every day. The result was incredible. My runs became injury free, and I pushed the mileage to see what would happen. I turned 70 that year so I figured I’d be even more susceptible to injury. I ended up doing a 21-mile run along with eight 18-mile runs, seven 16-mile runs and ten 15-mile runs as well as a lot of shorter runs. The total mileage for that year was over 1,700. No injuries! Since I had proven I could do that much mileage without injury, I backed off somewhat, running just over 1,500 miles the following year and then two years at a little over 1,400 miles each. Still no injuries. I’m now in my 74th year and still running the same kind of mileage.

I should add that I’m physically disabled. I have peripheral neuropathy that my neurologist judges to be “moderately severe.” It started in the early 1980’s and because it is a degenerative condition my legs get more and more numb over time and my balance gets worse. At first, my neurologist thought I shouldn’t be running outdoors as I’m so vulnerable to falling. I’ve had numerous falls and have been very lucky that I’ve only had minor injuries from those falls, but the risk of more serious injury is there. However, the doctor sees that I’m still getting around quite well, and he had never seen that with someone who has had PN for so many years. He thinks that it may well be the running that has kept me in much better condition than others with PN who don’t run. I’m the only patient of his with PN who runs. So now he says, “Keep running but be very careful not to fall.” I make a big effort to avoid falling. My high-dose vitamin D does not appear to be helping the PN but it apparently keeps me running long distances without overuse injury and that helps the PN. I tend to fall more when I’m walking. I think that’s because I don’t pay as much attention to my feet as when I run.

Some of my friends began taking vitamin D. One friend who is a serious runner in his 50’s told me his frequent overuse injuries have gone down to zero. Another friend has been having a lot of back pain due to his cerebral palsy. When he increased his daily dose of vitamin D3, his back pain completely subsided. A female friend was excited that when upped her vitamin D intake, her fingernails stopped cracking and breaking.

2 Responses to Member’s spotlight: vitamin D for the endurance athlete

  1. PeterVermont

    Thank you for sharing. – very interesting and encouraging. Although you did not ask for advice some people may not be aware of nutritional causes of neuropathy. Famously, vegans are at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency which can cause neuropathy (not always correctable even with supplementation after long period). Other variants of vitamin B3 are also potentially helpful. See https://www.google.com/search?q=niacinamide+OR+(nicotinamide+riboside)+neuropathy

  2. Ron Carmichael

    I discovered quite by accident that extreme muscle exertion can dramatically impact(lower) the blood level of 25(OH)D. For any athletes wishing to achieve their personal best, it would be wise to test their level PRIOR to a major athletic episode, and then again a few days AFTER a major athletic episode, to assess whether they are achieving adequate compensation and recovery. The second test must allow for the body to begin the recovery phase, which is where the D metabolites are consumed, if an accurate picture of D levels are to be acquired.
    For coaches attempting the use of periodization methodology with the goal for specific supercompensation, insuring adequate levels of raw D3 as well as 25(OH)D are ALWAYS available to the athlete become *mission critical*. Exercise is purposeful injury/insult/damage to existing body infrastructure, with the rational expectation of specific responses by the body to increase/improve/enhance the abilities involved in the exercise. D is critical to the body responding as expected – oligodendrocytes cannot myelinize neural pathways optimally without it. Elite performance as well as relative immunity to injury during training are both dependent on adequate D at all times and for all demands both chronic and acute. Whenever you buy ONE blood test from the council, you should probably be getting TWO, if you are a seriously-involved athlete. (I received no compensation nor consideration and declare no relevant financial relationships to disclose 🙂 )

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